Stabbing, car chases, ring in New Year

Efrain Maciel

While Gilroy residents celebrated the holiday weekend popping Champagne and toasting to their New Year’s resolutions, local law enforcement officers chased down suspects and responded to a bevy of crimes they hope will be aberrations as 2012 rolls forward.

Two vehicle pursuits – one at high speeds that ended in a wreck and one clunker that turned into a foot chase and injured a California Highway Patrol officer – marked an on-edge holiday for South County police.

“This weekend was busy. There were quite a few arrests,” said Sgt. Chad Gallacinao of the Gilroy Police Department.

Among the weekend’s activity:

n A Gilroy man was struck and injured by a vehicle while crossing the street in the GPD’s first filed case of the new year.

n Police continue to investigate the beating and stabbing of another man who was walking down the street carrying groceries.

n Officers responded to a rash of burglaries, including a report that $12,000 worth of purses and clothing were swiped from a Gilroy Premium Outlets store. A shotgun was also reported stolen from a car in the Denny’s parking lot on San Ysidro Avenue.

n One bright spot for New Year’s weekend, however, was that arrests for driving under the influence were down this holiday season compared with last year, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department.

Suspects stab man,

steal his beer

A 32-year-old Gilroy man who was carrying groceries in the area of Seventh and Chestnut streets early Saturday morning was beaten and stabbed by an unknown group of suspects, police said.

As the group approached the man and attempted to take some of his items, “they physically assaulted him with hands and feet,” and stabbed him with a knife. The suspects also stole a three-pack of beer from the victim, Gallacinao said.

The victim’s injuries were non-life threatening, and a friend drove him to Saint Louise Regional Hospital, where he was treated and interviewed by police, Gallacinao said.

“Right now, the motive of the attack is unknown,” Gallacinao said.

The stabbing, at this time, is not being investigated as gang-related, and police have only said the suspects were wearing “dark clothing.”

Fleeing suspect injured in high-speed pursuit

Police say 28-year-old Gilroy resident Efrain Avalos Maciel, a parolee, walked out of a Rite Aid drug store on East 10th Street around 2:15 p.m. Saturday without paying for more than $300 worth of shampoo, deodorant and other items he plucked from the shelves.

When store employees attempted to confront Maciel, he fled in a black 2001 Volkswagen Jetta, though police soon spotted him in the area of Church Street and Ronan Avenue thanks to a vehicle description and license plate number provided by Rite Aid staff.

Maciel didn’t stop for officers, instead initiating a high-speed pursuit that snaked through city streets at speeds as high as 60 mph, Gallacinao said. Maciel eventually crashed his vehicle after accelerating to more than 70 mph – and briefly out of view of police – on Hecker Pass Highway west of El Matador Drive, Gallacinao said.

“At one point, officers lost sight of him because they were concerned about their speed also,” Gallacinao said.

Officers were weighing whether or not to call off the chase for safety reasons when Maciel crashed, Gallacinao said.

“It’s very reckless,” he said. “The officer’s responsibility is for public safety. We’re evaluating the pursuit at all times to determine whether to continue the pursuit or to terminate it. We have to be mindful of the general public’s safety.”

Maciel suffered “severe, life-threatening injuries” in the single-car wreck but was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose after quickly recovering at a Bay Area trauma hospital, police said.

He was booked on suspicion of burglary, evading arrest and a parole violation, according to Gallacinao.

Struck pedestrian

GPD’s first 2012 case

Before 2012 was one-hour old, police responded to their first major incident of the new year: A report of a struck pedestrian in the area of First and Hanna streets.

According to police, a 39-year-old Gilroy man suffered “major body and head trauma” after he was hit crossing the street at 12:51 a.m. The man was flown to an area trauma hospital, where his condition was not known as of Monday afternoon.

The driver of the vehicle, a 54-year-old Gilroy man, was not arrested, according to GPD, and alcohol and drugs aren’t believed to be a factor in the accident.

CHP officer hurt

during foot chase

A CHP officer suffered a serious, undisclosed injury Sunday when a slow-speed chase turned into a foot pursuit near the Gilroy Premium Outlets, police said.

GPD officers attempted a traffic stop on a silver 2004 Dodge Neon on San Ysidro Avenue around 6 p.m. when the driver, 29-year-old Hollister resident Daniel Tanner, bolted. Sort of.

Tanner led police on a pursuit that failed to eclipse the 20 mph threshold, even when he drove onto U.S. Highway 101 at Leavesley Road, according to GPD.

GPD and CHP officers then used what’s known as a “pursuit intervention technique” – or “PIT” maneuver – to force Tanner’s slow-moving car to suddenly turn sideways and stop, Gallacinao said.

Tanner then jumped out of the car and fled to the area near In-N-Out Burger. During the chase, a CHP officer suffered an injury and was transported to a Bay Area hospital, Gallacinao said.

Gallacinao wouldn’t comment on the extent of the injury, and attempts to reach an official at the Hollister-Gilroy CHP officer were not successful as of press time.

Tanner was booked on suspicion of resisting arrest with significant injury, evading and driving with a suspended license, according to police.

Fewer DUI arrests

this time around

Officers countywide made 75 fewer DUI arrests this holiday season just a year ago, according to preliminary numbers released Monday by the Sheriff’s department.

As clocks rolled to midnight, and as calendars flipped to 2012, officers tallied 482 arrests for driving under the influence during a 17-day anti-DUI effort wraps up.

Officers arrested 557 individuals for driving under the influence over the same period last year, according to the Sheriff’s department. The effort – dubbed “Avoid the 13” in reference to the 13 county agencies participating – began Dec. 16 and ended Monday.

“We put a lot of information out there to the public,” Sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Cardoza said. “That could be part of it (the decrease). People don’t want to run the risk of driving drunk, and they make other arrangements. Which is better, that’s the goal, that’s the target.”

Gilroy police made no DUI arrests on New Year’s Eve, though California Highway Patrol officers in the Gilroy/Hollister region made one DUI arrest and responded to one DUI incident that resulted in injury.

Morgan Hill police made two DUI arrests. San Jose had the most New Year’s Eve DUI arrests – 15 by CHP and 13 by the San Jose Police Department.